Faisalabad (AsiaNews) - Pakistan " Pakistan is desperate for the message of peace and hope, our land is wounded with terrorism and the atmosphere is polluted with intolerance"; the special Jubilee of mercy "is a great sign of love and hope for the whole world”, says Mgr. Arshad Joseph, bishop of Faisalabad, who last December 20 opened the Holy Door in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul in the city (video).
After lighting the Jubilee candle, the bishop led hundreds of faithful through the main door of the church while Dominican nuns recited the litany of the saints. "I thank Pope Francis - said the prelate - for having convoked the year of Mercy in our world plagued by war. Jesus Christ is the face of the loving mercy of the Father, and looking to Him we can give a new look to our world". Click here for the video of the opening of the Holy Door and read below the AsiaNews interview with Msgr. Arshad.
"Pakistan is desperate for the message of peace and hope, our land is wounded with terrorism and the atmosphere is polluted with intolerance. It is crucial to promote harmony, tolerance brotherhood and forgiveness in this milieu by educating the sentiment of mercy. All parishes in our diocese will arrange programs on the theme of mercy throughout next year. And we plan to carry on this message from parishes to schools and all our institutes", said Bishop Joseph Arshad of Faisalabad in a recent interview to Asia News.
In his views, the declaration by His Holiness Pope Francis to have an extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy "is a great sign of love and hope for the whole world. Everybody needs such initiatives to rethink their life and prevalent attitudes in the society. Such moral values can only be inculcated through education".
The fifth bishop of Faisalabad has already declared 2016 as the year of education in his Punjabi diocese to complement the yearlong event. Bishops Arshad has chosen "Peace and Hope" as slogan for his diocese home to 175000 Catholics.
"My diocese consists of rural areas and remote hubs where religion is very dominant. There have been incidents this year where Christians continually suffered due to social injustices but despite all challenges the minority Christians continue to raise their voice for what is right", he said referring to blasphemy cases and suicide bombings at two Churches in Lahore.
Religious minorities of Pakistan, home to the third largest Muslim population in the world, have long expressed concerns at the discrimination and insecurity. Blasphemy allegations have often led to mob violence and extra judicial killings in recent years.
Msgr. Arshad, who is also president of the Episcopal Commission for Social Communications in Pakistan, adds:"Hunger and unemployment has contributed in nurturing fundamentalism which has become a challenge for the government as well as common people. Caritas Pakistan Faisalabad, our social wing, in playing a vital role in uplifting the communities, our dedicated teams are closely working with the weakest in grassroots. The Caritas campaign of Human Family, Food for All, which aims to end world hunger by 2025, gave a new image to the social work of the diocese in bringing awareness about food security and concretely showing the love of Jesus”.
The bishop concludes "Christmas is a period of joy, love and peace and this joy must be shared with all humans. We do not only externally prepare and this carries special significance for us in Pakistan. While celebrating the birth of Christ, we have to be spiritually strong in our life as Christians".